Advanced Italian - Congiuntivo Trapassato

Weilà weilà raga! How's it going guys? I hope you're all doing great today!

This post correlates with my video "Advanced Italian 4 - Congiuntivo Trapassato | Pluperfect Subjunctive."

This is the 4th and final subjunctive mood in Italian, we use it when we want to talk about things that may or may not have taken place in the past.

This is also a compound verb tense, which means that we need to call in our good old friends Avere & Essere to give us a hand with our verb conjugations.


AND this means that our conjugations aren't going to be all that difficult to remember, because whenever you have helping/auxiliary verbs, the main verb gets conjugated in only one way. (I know, that little voice inside your head is screaming "yay!" right now.)

So, this means that our main verbs will change as follows:

ARE verbs will end in ATO

ERE verbs will end in UTO

IRE verbs will end in ITO

The only verbs that will be seeing the most change will be Avere & Essere, which we'll be conjugating in the Congiuntivo Imperfetto (as luck has it, we already conjugated them in that "tense" in Advanced Italian 3).

Sound familiar? This is exactly what we did in Grammar Basics 2 when we covered the Passato Prossimo.

So let's get to it with conjugating a verb! Let's begin with the ARE verb Chiamare. This verb uses Avere as it's helping verb.

Chiamare - To Call

  • che io avessi chiamato - that I had called
  • che tu avessi chiamato - that you had called
  • che lui/lei avesse chiamato - that he/she had called
  • che noi avessimo chiamato - that we had called
  • che voi aveste chiamato - that you guys/all had called
  • che loro avessero chiamato - that they had called

So, as we can see, the auxiliary verb Avere gets conjugated in the Congiuntivo Imperfetto and our main verb just changes from ARE to ATO. Not bad, right? And of course, good old CHE can't leave us alone as it's a fundamental part of of the Congiuntivo, just as SE is. So that's why it's hanging around us. It likes us and doesn't want to leave the party.

Now let's take a look at a sentence with Chiamare used in the Congiuntivo Trapassato:

Avresti saputo se ti avessero chiamato

- You would have known if they had called you

In order to structure a phrase like this, we need the help of the Condizionale Passato (Present Perfect Conditional tense). Though I haven't made a video or blog post about this tense yet, it's no different to any other compound verb tense in Italian. We can also call in the likes of the Imperfetto (Imperfect tense - Grammar Basics 4), Passato Prossimo (Grammar Basics 2), Passato Remoto, Trapassato Remoto, and even Condizionale Presente (Conditional tense - Grammar Basics 6) sometimes.

The idea is that you would have known (in the past) if they had called you (also in the past).

Now let's take a look at another ARE verb, but this time one that uses Essere as its helping verb.

Arrivare - To Arrive

  • che io fossi arrivato/a - that I had arrived
  • che tu fossi arrivato/a - that you had arrived
  • che lui/lei fosse arrivato/a - that he/she had arrived
  • che noi fossimo arrivati/e - that we had arrived
  • che voi foste arrivati/e - that you guys/all had arrived
  • che loro fossero arrivati/e - that they had arrived

Let's take a look now at an example with Arrivare used in the Congiuntivo Trapassato:

Pensavo che fosse arrivato ieri

- I thought it had arrived yesterday

Remember, because we're using Essere, we have to be mindful of gender and the number of things we're talking about. (This is fancily referred to as "Gender & Number Agreement".) This phrase that I prepared for you guys is just a very simple and generic phrase, it refers to me thinking that "it", which is a masculine thing in this case, had arrived yesterday.

If you need a refresher on Gender & Number rules in Italian, this is for you:

Che io fossi arrivatO - That I (a boy) had arrived

Che io fossi arrivatA - That I (a girl) had arrived

Che noi fossimo arrivatI - That we (a group of guys) had arrived

Che noi fossimo arrivatI - That we (a group of guys + girls) had arrived

Che noi fossimo arrivatE - That we (a group of girls only) had arrived

Starting to get the hang of it? It's pretty easy, right? Let's now take a look at an ERE verb and then we'll move on to an IRE verb. The verb I've got for you guys is an irregular verb - Chiedere.

  • Chiedere - To Ask
  • che io avessi chiesto - that I had asked
  • che tu avessi chiesto - that you had asked
  • che lui/lei avesse chiesto - that he/she had asked
  • che noi avessimo chiesto - that we had asked
  • che voi aveste chiesto - that you guys/all had asked
  • che loro avessero chiesto - that they had asked

Se me l'avessero chiesto, avrei detto di sì

- If they had asked me (it), I would have said yes

Partire - To Depart/To Leave

  • che io fossi partito/a - that I had left/departed
  • che tu fossi partito/a - that you had left/departed
  • che lui/lei fosse partito/a - that he/she had left/departed
  • che noi fossimo partiti/e - that we had left/departed
  • che voi foste partiti/e - that you guys/all had left/departed
  • che loro fossero partiti/e - that they had left/departed

Pensavo che fosse partita ieri sera

- I thought she had left last night

How do I know that we're talking about "she" even though there is no "lei" used in the sentence? Because the main verb ends in an "a." However, keep in mind that both objects and people have gender in Italian, so we could also be talking about a feminine object, such as a "box" (scatola) or a "chair" (sedia). Seeing as I wrote the sentence, I can tell you I meant a person.

What I always try to do is devise sentences that show some variation and exemplify the rules. So often I do my best to use different persons, and avoid always using the first person. In this particular "lesson," I wanted to also show sentences with both 1 and 2 clauses as well as phrases with different verb tenses. So some have the Imperfetto, like the last one, the one before that has the Condizionale Passato, and so on. I hope you can get a lot out of the examples I create :)

However, do keep in mind that when I make these videos I keep in mind that this may be the first time you have ever seen the topics I'm presenting. So because of that, and with an aim to keep things simple and to-the-point, I may not cover every single possible scenario in which you could use any of the things I discuss in my videos and blog posts. But I am aware that different situations and scenarios exist.

Lastly, Italians tend to use "egli" and "essi" when conjugating verbs. My aim is to get you speaking, which to me is the most important thing, and since you don't use egli and essi when speaking I purposely don't add them in. However, I did mention them sometimes in my Grammar Basics videos.

Always remember to spread the love!